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Wheeling Park Students Ready to Rock


Jacob Wolfe of Mozart, left, and James Kawasaki of Bethlehem formed their progressive-rock band Lunary when they were in eighth grade. Now rising seniors at Wheeling Park High School, they are writing their own music and looking for gigs.

MOZART — There’s technically carpet on the floor and a dresser standing against one wall. But, Lunary is clearly a straight-up garage band in the same spirit as Nirvana, The Ramones and The Who.

The only reason they are practicing indoors is there’s a spare bedroom in band member Jacob Wolfe’s Mozart home and there’s a noise-deafening door not only on the room but at the top of the stairway to the first floor. “She kind of got used to it,” Wolfe said of his mom and the roar that can surely be heard downstairs anyway.

Plus, as fellow band member James Kawasaki noted, the actual garage in question tends to take on water during rainstorms.

So, the two 17-year-old rising seniors from Wheeling Park High School have settled into cozier digs. A drum set and a variety of guitars are both happily dry and positioned just so around the room — ready to rock and roll whenever they are. And, even though both work in addition to attending school, that is surprisingly often.

“Sometimes, we practice four times a week for hours on end,” said Kawasaki, who plays the drums for Lunary performances and has been laying bass tracks for the recordings the bands has been experimenting with as finances allow.

Other times, the realities of school and work mean it might be once every couple of weeks. But, Kawasaki and Wolfe have longevity of a sort on their side to balance that. Friends since they were riding the bus to Wheeling Middle School together in sixth grade, they had already formed Lunary by eighth grade.

The duo are the core of the group, with other musician friends joining in on the handful of times they’ve gotten gigs so far. “We’re only two people so we can only play so many instruments at a time,” Kawasaki noted with practicality.


Not that they couldn’t play more in theory. Both teens are heavily involved in the music program at Wheeling Park. They sing. They’re in band. And, as there isn’t another current student who plays a drum set, Kawasaki said he also fills in wherever the performance needs take him.

When it comes to Lunary, the two do it all starting with their discovery of and commitment to the progressive-rock genre. It’s a blend of hard rock and jazz popularized — at least in some circles — by West Coast-based bands such as Tool and Dance Gavin Dance.

Their genre of choice has been a bit of a gig venue problem for the band, however. “What we play is pretty popular with some people, but just not here,” Kawasaki said, noting local tastes tend to run toward country, bluegrass and rap.

Age is also an issue, they said. Given that they’re minors, some venues that might be open to their style of rock are otherwise shut to them.

“There is nobody that’s our age,” Kawasaki noted of local rock performers. He said the only other band involving Wheeling Park students that they are aware of is a bluegrass one.

“It’s hard to find anyone that even listens to the music that we listen to.”

But, the teens aren’t daunted. They’re not only playing genre covers, they’re writing original music.

Wolfe, who does his own instrumental parts and most of the lyrics, likes to think of his work as poetry. A couple sample stanzas include:

“Run away with me.

Replace the stress with ease

Until you want to be

Right next to me” and

“I don’t know why

The world is this way

But I know that

Times will change.”

Kawasaki, who also writes instrumental parts, likes to think of their songs as emotional rides.

“I want the song to tell a story — a hard part and a softer part,” he said. “When you finally finish a song, that feels amazing.”

The collaborative angle is also something they both mentioned as a motivator.

“I just enjoy playing music with other people,” Wolfe said. “It’s fun. It’s like a stress reliever in a way.”

Kawasaki added that their peers tend to react positively, which is an encouragement. “I think our girlfriends like our music,” he joked. “No one’s told us they hate it.”


As rising seniors, both Kawasaki and Wolfe are hoping to get as many gigs as they can in coming months, but also have college on their minds. Both are considering West Virginia University and both are interested in engineering — computer science for Wolfe and aerospace for Kawasaki.

Not that they’d turn down an opportunity to turn professional as musicians if that remote possibility somehow emerged, they admitted with grins.

In the meantime, they’ll keep blasting out the tunes and adding a guitar or recording device to their collection as time and finances allow.

Kawasaki acknowledged he’s already amassed seven guitars. Motioning to one sitting on its stand for the moment, he laughed. “I worked like 35 hours to get that guitar,” he said. “Oh man, that was a rough week.”

Readers who would like to hear Lunary play will have to wait for a while unless their rock and roll dream yields impending gigs. The group has an Instagram site — #lunary_bandofficial — but hasn’t added recordings to it yet.



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